Rethink Remembers: Lynne Halpern
On October 1st, after a hectic and exciting morning filled with media interviews promoting cool new resources, pink cause marketing campaigns and stylish events for breast cancer awareness month, I received word that we lost our dear, beautiful friend, Lynne Halpern, early that morning to metastatic breast cancer. It was a sobering reminder during a celebratory day that we are still losing far to many vibrant young women to this dreaded disease.
Lynne’s death felt very sudden because she had only been admitted to palliative care the day before; however, her breast cancer journey had been a long one for such a young woman—over 10 years of appointments, treatments, set backs, good news, the worst news, experimental treatments and ultimately needing to prepare herself and her family for the end.
Lynne passed away peacefully surrounded by family and many of her closest friends. Her husband Mark told us that Lynne’s biggest fear was that he and the kids would have to see her suffer a long, drawn out death in palliative care. While devastated at losing the love of his life, and telling us that he would have been willing to do almost anything to have more time with her, Mark was thankful and relieved that she didn’t suffer long.
Lynne came into my life not too long after starting Rethink Breast Cancer. She was one of the first young women with breast cancer to get involved in our organization and she was so positive and encouraging about Rethink’s efforts and our unique approach to serving young women. She became a peer-volunteer, dedicating her time and energy to giving back and providing emotional support to newly diagnosed young women. She continued with this generous work when she became metastatic and helped many other young women cope better with the news that their breast cancer had metastasized. Lynne also participated in our Live Laugh Learn sessions, Breast Fest film festival and boldly rocked it on the runway at the “Bringing Sexy Back” fashion show at the first Canadian conference for young women with breast cancer.
Lynne always had a calm, easy, friendly way about her. Our daughters were the same age and whenever I saw her she always asked about my husband and daughter Annie. Lynne liked to talk about many things, not just breast cancer. She had great advice and input to offer Rethink as we began building special programs and resources for young women like her, but breast cancer didn’t define her. After the “breast cancer business” was out of the way, we spent most of our time talking about kids. It was clear that Lynne’s focus in life was her family.
My colleague Shawna and I had a lovely coffee with Lynne at her favorite French patisserie the last week of August. The sun shone down on us on the patio and we all shared stories about back to school preparations and typical mom stuff about needing to get organized. At her shiva last week, Shawna and I had some quiet time with Mark, her son Zachary and her daughter Zoe, as well as her sister and mother. We sat in the family room flipping through the incredibly beautiful photo books and scrapbooks Lynne had lovingly poured hours and hours into making. They captured incredible family trips (she loved travel and adventure) as well as special occasions and snap shots from daily life. She had a real gift—the books were so beautiful and thoughtfully put together, just like Lynne.
Like many of the young women we know that are living with advanced breast cancer, leaving a legacy was important to Lynne. The scrapbooks she created captured perfectly what her legacy will be—her love and joy and her example of how to live through struggle. Until those final hours before she passed, Lynne was a young woman “living with breast cancer.”
While Mark thanked us for all our kindness and support to Lynne and their family, it is Lynne who has given us so much as has Mark and even Zachary and Zoe. Mark has been a tireless fundraiser for our charity both as an individual and through his company Kitchen Stuff Plus. He is always proudly plugging his support for his favorite “small, nimble and bold charity” that, he says, “is there for women dealing with breast cancer.” Zachary and Zoe have both fundraised for Rethink too and each of them created the most sweet and wonderful school projects on Rethink Breast Cancer.
I will miss Lynne so much. This Thanksgiving weekend, hug your loved ones—enjoy and give thanks for the wonderful adventures we have on this earth and the small moments too. That’s what Lynne did.